Visions of Europe: Spain’s political crisis. From institutional impasse to culture war?
In collaboration with the Amsterdam Centre for European Studies
As part of the Visions of Europe Lecture series, ACES invites sociologist Robert Fishman to analyze the four recent Spanish elections and their aftermath.
The signs of political crisis in Spain are numerous. Conflict over the call of many Catalans and Basques for independence is but one of many symptoms of broad-based difficulties. Since late 2015, four nationwide parliamentary elections have been held. The formation of a government based on the results proved impossible following two of those four elections. One government fell to a parliamentary vote of no confidence and others have found their legitimacy sharply questioned by their political adversaries. Public satisfaction with democracy and trust in political institutions are both well below average levels for Europe according to available Eurobarometer data. The number of parties present in the country’s parliament has increased dramatically. Some of these difficulties are linked to long-standing tendencies of some political actors to exclude other political forces from full participation in the system. Those exclusions have served to foster political impasse and dissatisfaction.
The recent turn toward broad-based inclusion by the governing Socialists and their coalition allies to their left has permitted the formation of a new government. However, the turn toward inclusion has been far from consensual. Opponents of the government increasingly challenge its legitimacy and reject inclusionary assumptions and discourse on a variety of matters – from questions of gender to national identity and the treatment of immigrants. The bitter polarization now in evidence is as much cultural as political. Spain has joined the set of countries in which much political conflict can be seen as a culture war.
The Visions of Europe lecture series brings prominent European policy makers and academics to Amsterdam to address urgent European and global issues.
About the speakers
Robert M. Fishman is Senior Assistant Professor of Political Science and Sociology at Madrid’s Carlos III University. His work at the Carlos III University focuses on dimensions of democracy and their determinants. Fishman earned his Ph.D. in Sociology from Yale University and is a member of the American Sociological Association and the American Political Science Association. Fishman is currently writing a book analyzing differences in democratic practice and societal outcomes between ‘third wave’ pioneers Portugal and Spain, the Iberian Peninsula neighbors which, through nearly polar opposite pathways of change, initiated the late twentieth century’s worldwide expansion of democratic rule. This work takes the juxtaposition between numerous historical and structural similarities of these neighboring societies and their major divergence after returning to democracy in the 1970s as the basis to pose a series of large theoretical questions on the functioning of democracy and the dynamics determining how well representative systems approximate the democratic goal of full political equality among citizens.
Matthijs Rooduijn (discussant) is a political sociologist at the University of Amsterdam, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science. His research focuses on the causes and consequences of the rise of populist and radical (left and right) parties. Who votes for such parties and under which conditions? What are the implications of the increased electoral successes of these parties? He is the initiator of The PopuList, an international research collaboration which offers academics and journalists an overview of populist, far right, far left and Eurosceptic parties in Europe, and co-director of the Hot Politics Lab — an interdisciplinary research group combining experiments, physiological measurement and automated text analysis to analyze the role of emotions, personality and language in politics.
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